The season is essentially over for the Los Angeles Lakers, but Mason Jones and the rest of the team’s young core gave fans at the Crypto.com Arena one last reason to cheer. Jones, who played his third game as a Laker Friday night in a 120-101 win over Oklahoma City Thunder, joined a young squad playing without three of their stars, but you wouldn’t know that by watching them.
In a miraculous change from the games fans have been enduring, head coach Frank Vogel decided to let his young players shine in the absences of Anthony Davis, LeBron James and Russell Westbrook, all of whom were sidelined Friday. A small, fast lineup of Malik Monk, Austin Reaves, Stanley Johnson and Wenyen Gabriel was helped by Jones’ presence and energy on the floor. The guard from the South Bay Lakers was all too grateful to be there.
“I was kind of sad yesterday that we lost, but it was actually kind of, one of my friends told me it was a blessing in disguise for me,” Jones said. “Not selfishly wise, but because I knew I wanted to be up here, I wanted to showcase my talents the last couple games. Being able to really take advantage of this last home game as a Laker, I don’t really take that for granted so every day I want to continue to work hard. I’m young, I’m only 23 and didn’t have trouble waking up this morning getting ready for this game. I was kind of excited because I knew what I wanted to show the fanbase and what I wanted to show the coaches for next year if they’re still here.”
Jones certainly did impress in his 18-minute home debut for the Lakers. By the end of the night, he had 13 points, three rebounds, one assist and zero turnovers. Jones was also 4-for-4 from the field and sank his only 3-pointer of the night.
An efficient shooting night wasn’t Jones’ only contribution. The 6-foot-4-inch guard came into the game and immediately took on tough assignments, driving to the basket for and-one opportunities and fighting for defensive rebounds. After spending all season with the South Bay Lakers, Jones was not about to waste his chance to dazzle the team before the year ends.
“It feels good. Like I said earlier, I was very excited for this opportunity,” Jones said. “Coach Vogel came up to me pregame and was like ‘Mase, you’re gonna get an opportunity to play tonight’ so just for me being young, my eyes blew up knowing that I was gonna have a chance to really showcase my skills and being able to get the minutes to really showcase what I can do.
“All credit to them, Coach Vogel didn’t have to play me tonight even though it’s the last two games, so just being able to have that opportunity is great.”
Davis, Westbrook and vets provide valuable lessons for Jones
While the Lakers were without performances from James, Davis, Westbrook and Carmelo Anthony, the veteran stars made sure their presence was felt from off the court. Jones shared in his postgame interview that the more experienced Lakers have played a part in his journey and progression as a player.
“AD and Russ and them continue to show support for the team and continue to just criticize me and continue to show me what I can do better,” Jones said. “Because at the end of the day, I want to be a good player in the league and from this day forward, we got to be able to continue to take steps. I was with South Bay earlier and I took that as the right mindset, but I will continue to take steps. From here, I just want to continue to take steps, continue to learn from them because possibly they could be my teammates next year so I want to continue to just learn as much as I can while I’m young.”
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